Worsening Economic Conditions call for Emergency EI Measures, CAW President Says

    TORONTO, April 9 /CNW/ - Massive job losses totaling 61,300 in the month
of March and a rise in the national unemployment rate to 8 per cent must
prompt emergency action from the federal government to help Canadians
struggling with job loss and inadequate access to unemployment insurance, CAW
President Ken Lewenza said following the release of recent labour market
figures by Statistics Canada earlier today.
    The CAW has called on the government to immediately expand EI benefit
coverage for up to an additional year so long as the national unemployment
rate exceeds 6.5 per cent. Lewenza said this emergency extension in coverage
should be funded by the federal government directly rather than through
existing unemployment insurance (EI) funds, similar to action taken by the
federal government in the 1980s.
    "The economic conditions in this country are worsening each month as
Canadians are being thrown out of work at a rate not seen in over 20 years and
the extra five weeks of EI coverage promised by the Harper government just
doesn't cut it," Lewenza said. "It infuriates me to hear Finance Minister Jim
Flaherty boast about the strength of Canada's EI system, oblivious to the fact
that drastic cutbacks made to the system in past years have put the
livelihoods of so many working Canadians and their families in jeopardy. It's
    The union has also called on the government to ease restrictions on EI
qualifying hours so that more workers can access the system and to backstop
unpaid severance and other separation monies owed to workers when employers go
bankrupt or fail to pay.
    With the exception of Ottawa and Kingston, all major urban centres in
Ontario have unemployment in excess of 7 per cent, including Toronto,
Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Oshawa, St.Catharines/Niagara, Sudbury, Thunder
Bay and Windsor.
    Windsor has the highest urban unemployment rate in Canada at a stunning
13.7 per cent, while dramatic unemployment increases were recorded for the
cities of Vancouver and Montreal. Unemployment in Vancouver jumped from 5.7
per cent in February to 7.1 per cent in March and in Montreal the rate jumped
from 8.2 per cent to 9.3 per cent.
    The EI system uses regional unemployment rates on a 3 month rolling
average (January through March) to determine EI eligibility and duration of
benefits, an unfair practice that is also having an adverse effect on laid-off
workers, Lewenza said.
    "If the most current March numbers were used instead, workers laid off in
Montreal and Vancouver during April would qualify for benefits with 35 fewer
insured hours and be entitled to two additional weeks of EI benefits," said
Lewenza. "There has never been a more important time for the government to
establish a uniform entry requirement of 360 hours for EI benefits right
across the country, regardless of the city you happen to live in."
    Over half of the job loss recorded in March (34,200) was comprised of
losses in the struggling manufacturing sector, particularly the auto and parts
sector as well as in metal and wood processing. Among the hardest hit groups
were young workers between the ages of 15 and 24, who suffered 18,600 job
losses last month. The youth unemployment rate in Canada has shot to 14.8 per
cent, the highest in the country.
    Today, nearly one and a half million Canadians are categorized as
unemployed, a figure that doesn't account for workers who have exhausted their
unemployment insurance benefits and have stopped searching for work.

For further information:

For further information: contact CAW Communications: Angelo DiCaro,
(416) 606-6311 or Shannon Devine, (416) 302-1699

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Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW)

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